Courtesy of Tulane Athletics
NEW ORLEANS â€“ The Tulane football team completed its 2010 spring season this morning and it was the Green Wave running game that took center stage with 207 combined yards on 38 carries and a pair of touchdowns during a 76-play scrimmage at the Westfeld Practice Facility.
On a morning where the local forecast called for severe thunderstorms that included a tornado warning and a chance for hail in the Uptown area, the football Gods were certainly looking down on the TU football program as the team practiced for an hour and then scrimmaged for just over an hour without so much as a drop of rain and even included a glimmer of sunlight at one point.
â€œWe wanted to run as many plays as we could today without getting anyone injured and we did that for the most part,â€ Tulane head coach Toledo said. â€œI think we had one player who got the wind knocked out of him, but heâ€™ll be fine. We put in a lot of scrimmage reps in and I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to prove what they could do. I believe itâ€™s important in the spring to give everyone a chance to prove themselves.â€
In the 15th and final practice of Toledoâ€™s fourth spring as the Green Wave skipper, the Waveâ€™s running back corps averaged 5.4 yards as a group and five different players who carried the ball averaged at least 5.0 yards per rush.
â€œOffensively, I thought we ran the ball pretty well. We started slow, but we got it going and I thought our backs did a good job with second and third efforts and keeping their pad levels down and gaining yards,â€ Toledo said.
Junior running back J.T. McDonald rumbled for 71 yards on 11 carries (6.5 ypc) and two touchdowns, while sophomore back Stephen Barnett carried the ball a game-high 12 times and reeled off 61 yards (5.1 ypc) and a score. The most pleasant surprising performance of the day came from freshman walk-on Nâ€™Gal Tillman, who ran for 54 yards on six carries (9.0 ypc), including a game-best 30-yard scamper.
McDonald scored his first touchdown from three yards out for the first score of the scrimmage and then rambled in from 19 yards out on a 1st and 10 play, while Barnett finished a drive with a one-yard plunge on a 1st and goal play.
Junior Albert Williams, who produced the best spring by the running backs in the previous scrimmages, ran just five times for 25 yards (5.0 ypc) and was sidelined for much of the contest to let the coaching staff spread the carries out to different backs.
Defensively, sophomore safety Devon Walker, senior safety Taylor Echols and junior linebacker Trent Mackey each logged a team-best eight tackles apiece, and junior Dezman Moses notched the tackle for lost yardage with his 10-yard sack of senior quarterback Kevin Moore. The defenseâ€™s second sack came from senior defensive tackle Justin Adams when he dropped sophomore quarterback Ryan Griffin for a two-yard loss. The Tulane defensive unit combined for three stops for lost yardage on the day.
The Tulane quarterback trio combined for a 16-of-43 effort for 130 yards with the longest hook-up of the day coming on a third and long play from the arm of Griffin to sophomore Devin Figaro for 21 yards. Griffin finished 6-of-10 for 77 yards, while Moore received the most work and was 10-of-20 for 53 yards. Junior Joe Kemp has spent most of the spring transitioning from quarterback to receiver, but did attempt three passes.
Senior Alan Mitchell and Tillman proved to be the favorite targets of the day by the TU quarterbacks in the passing game as each player hauled in three receptions. Sophomore Ryan Grant caught two passes for a team-best 29 yards and Griffin and Moore peppered the ball to 10 different receivers.
â€œDefensively, I thought we did a great job of defending the pass and putting a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks and we didnâ€™t give up a touchdown pass,â€ Toledo said.
Finally, redshirt freshman Ryan Rome closed out a solid spring campaign by hitting all three PAT attempts and split the uprights on a 34-yard field goal attempt.
â€œI would say with has been the best spring for our team since I have been the head coach because we have developed continuity with the same coordinators and the same system. We have tweaked the systems a little bit but the terminology is the same. We accomplished a lot this spring and gained needed experience but the main thing is we stayed relatively healthy,â€ Toledo said.